For those of you who might not know, an affirmation is a positive statement that you repeat to yourself as a fact. E.g. ‘I am beautiful inside and out.’

Now I don’t know about you, but that does somewhat make me cringe, even after all the work I’ve done. It just feels too much, and I can already hear my Inner Troll laughing sarcastically.

However, I also know that there is plenty of evidence that repeating positive affirmations can decrease stress, improve academic performance, reduce rumination and so on. It makes perfect sense that when the negative repeated thoughts we all have can do so much damage, consciously talking to ourselves in positive ways could undo that.

That said, it is really important exactly what we say to ourselves because there is also evidence that for some people, repeating positive affirmations can actually make them feel worse.

It seems that really expansive statements, such as ‘I am beautiful inside and out’ do indeed often trigger too much backlash, especially for those who are not already very confident.

However, the study also found that more modest and verifiable statements, such as ‘I’m good at listening’, could have a positive effect, even on those suffering from lower self-esteem.

A work in progress.

I’d like to add another suggestion here: to simply see the positive belief as a work in progress.

A positive affirmation needs to be expressed as something which is already true. It’s no good saying to yourself ‘I will prioritise my health’ as that’s just a vague hope for the future. But, equally, saying, ‘I prioritise my health’ when you KNOW you spent all day at your desk accompanied by a packet of chocolate digestives, seems laughable.

So, how about if we chose to say something like, ‘More and more, I prioritise my health’? Or, ‘I’m getting better at prioritising my health.’  If you keep repeating that to yourself, especially when you are conscious of a decision to be made about something like whether you stay at your desk or go out and get some fresh air, it almost certainly will start to have an impact.

Some other useful phrases:

– I am becoming….

– I am learning to…..

– I am working every day on…

– I am starting to…

How to use these affirmations?

I find when I start meditating, I can use an affirmation as a kind of mantra or anchor to help quieten down my mind. I repeat it as I focus on my breathing.

You could try repeating it (out loud or in your head) while you lie in bed before getting up in the morning, or in the shower, or last thing at night.

Or you could write it on a post-it note and stick it where you’ll see it regularly- on the computer screen, the bathroom mirror, the fridge.

Why not try it? Write down a (reasonable and believable) affirmation now, give it a go for 10 days, and see what happens.